By Erik J. Martin, CTW Features
Feel like the walls are closing in on you in your own house? It may be time to remove those walls – literally – and let your living space breathe better while increasing visibility across rooms by pursuing an open-concept design remodel.
Artem Kropovinsky, an interior designer and founder of Arsight in New York City, says an open-concept floor plan emphasizes bigger connected spaces, such as living rooms, kitchens, and dining areas with minimal walls or partitions separating them.
“This design concept has become increasingly popular in recent years as it promotes a more spacious and airier feel, encourages interaction and flow between spaces, and allows for better use of natural light,” he continues. “Additionally, it can make small spaces appear larger and can improve your home’s resale value.”
Because there are fewer barriers between rooms and areas when an open-concept approach is employed, “more natural light and air can enter and circulate throughout your home, thereby increasing your sense of well-being and comfort,” explains Julio Arco, an architect and designer. “Consider that a home with a well-thought-out design that facilitates communication and movement among its many areas is more comfortable and dynamic for its occupants. It encourages more conversation and bonding among family members and visitors.”
Diana Melichar, president of Melichar Architects in Lake Forest, Illinois, says an open-concept floorplan works well for families with small children, as it helps parents better watch their kids while they are cooking or doing other activities.
“Other good candidates include empty nesters, where couples want to be together more of the time,” she adds.
This design approach is particularly suited for homes with small or compartmentalized rooms as well as residences with a closed-off kitchen or dining area.
“However, it’s important to keep in mind that open-concept designs may not be suitable for homes with privacy concerns, such as homeowners who frequently host overnight guests,” says Kropovinsky.
A good example of an open-concept layout includes a kitchen that opens into a living room and/or dining room, with no walls between.
“The kitchen itself may have an island or peninsula that serves as a division between the cooking and dining spaces while maintaining an open feel,” says Shri Ganeshram, CEO and founder of Awning.com.
This could be accomplished by knocking down walls, creating substantial passageways between rooms, or installing pocket doors that can be opened or closed according to the requirements of the space, suggests Arco.
“The end effect is a living area that is more accessible and linked, making it suitable for gatherings of friends and family in addition to day-to-day activities,” Arco adds.
Before committing to a remodel project that involves removing walls and other significant architectural and structural changes, give careful thought to several matters.
“A renovation project like this can require significant time and money. Also, with fewer walls and partitions, there may be less privacy, which can be a concern for some people,” Arco cautions. “Furthermore, an open concept floorplan can lead to more noise and increased sound transmission between rooms. And this design may not suit every decorating style or aesthetic, so think about the finished look and feel of the completed space before committing to this remodel.”
Melichar seconds those sentiments.
“Many times, multiple activities can occur in an open space plan and can conflict with one another. One example is if mom is cooking and running the dishwasher while dad is trying to watch a game on TV. This is also particularly difficult for seniors who may have hearing aids that pick up all sorts of background sounds,” she points out. “Also, high ceilings and open spaces can amplify noise and inadvertently send the sounds to other parts of the home. We have seen this in loft arrangements where the first floor opens to the second floor. You can help reduce the sound using fabric drapes, upholstered furnishings and carpeted floors, but not all of the undesired sounds will be absorbed.”
Eliminating walls can be much more challenging than it sounds, too. For example, removing load-bearing walls may require installing costly header beams above. And electrical and plumbing found within a wall designated for removal will need to be rerouted, another pricey proposition.
“Work with a professional designer when contemplating an open-concept remodel. This professional can assist in striking a balance between the desire for a more open and connected living area and the requirement for privacy, sound control, and other practical issues,” Arco advises.
As with any remodeling job, be sure to shop around for contractors carefully and vet every candidate you consider. You may also need to hire an architect or structural engineer if you’ll be removing walls.